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A global view on American gun violence

Firearm ownership and homicides relative to the rest of the world.

By Rich_Maloof Dec 19, 2012 7:50PM

Around the world, there are more than 656,000,000 firearms in the hands of civilians. A fresh batch of eight million small arms are manufactured every year, plus 10 to 15 billion rounds of ammunition. That’s enough to shoot every person in the world — twice.

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty ImagesWhere does the U.S. rank in gun ownership and gun violence relative to other countries of the world?

It depends on how you consider the data: by percentage of guns per capita, by mass killings committed, by gun homicides in nations with comparable economies, or even by unintentional gun deaths.

We are the unrivaled leader in all of those categories.

Here are a few facts to begin gaining some perspective.

There are an estimated 270,000,000 guns held by civilians in the U.S. — more than the number of passenger cars by about 50 million. It may be expected that we’d have more than the other 178 countries surveyed, but we also have by far the highest percentage of guns per capita. The rate? For every 100 people in America there are 88.8 guns. The nearest competitor is Serbia at 58.21 per 100 people, and rates fall off significantly from there.

Related: What NOT to say to families who are grieving

Ownership rates can’t be equated with violence, and we are not the most homicidal nation by a long shot. Honduras has only 6.2 guns per 100 people, a small fraction of our own rate, but has the most homicides per gun. In that small Central American republic there are 68.43 killings by gun per 100,000 people, compared to just 2.98 per 100,000 in the U.S.

In fact, underdeveloped nations far surpass wealthier regions in armed civilian violence. Countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the near and middle East, and Southwest Asia far outgun North America, Central Asia, and Europe in percentage of homicides by firearm.

Bing: Obama pledges action on gun violence now

However, relative to other highly developed nations, our record is abysmal. Using statistics from the UN and national sources, PolitiFact calculated that the rate of gun homicide in the U.S. was 15 times the rate of comparable countries like Australia, Japan, Norway, and the UK nations (as of 2009).

Mass shootings are not unique to America. But for civilian massacres outside of wartime, we have more than all other nations combined. Of the 25 worst mass shootings of the past 50 years listed in Time this past July, months before Sandy Hook, 15 occurred in the U.S. Of the other nations, only Finland, with two entries, had more than one shooting ranked.

Related: Managing kids' media exposure

Worldwide there are more than 1,000 gun deaths daily. In the U.S., we average 25 every day, or more than one person shot to death every hour.

Back in 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the death toll from small arms “dwarfs that of all other weapons systems — and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

In other words, the carnage wrought by the most devastating weapons of mass destruction ever unleashed on mankind is repeated every year in gun violence. Certainly there’s an argument to be made for responsible firearm ownership. But there’s no debating that if it weren’t for gun violence, nearly 300,000 people who were alive at this time last year would still be breathing.

Primary sources: Geneva Declaration Secretariat, GunPolicy.org, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, PolitiFact Virginia

Photo: Bill Boch/Getty Images

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491Comments
Dec 19, 2012 10:44PM
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The author failed to report whether or not the guns used in the murders in the United States were registered legally or were they illegally obtained and whether or not the shooter was the registered owner or not.  This is an important issue because bad guys DO NOT register guns.  The key is responsible gun ownership, keeping ammunition locked up away from the guns; having a loaded pistol for home defense in a location ONLY the homeowners know and not their children, and the all important problem of the lack of mental health programs and institutions to support parents who cannot "go it alone" no matter how hard they try, and recognizing behavior patterns that lead up to these mass shootings. In all too many cases all the signs were there and recognized by a parent, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and superiors in Washington D.C. as in Fort Hood and nothing was done.  Second guessing leads to a very bad outcome and those that saw the signs did nothing.  They are to blame for these tragedies and no one else.     
Dec 19, 2012 10:43PM
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Im sure once we start arming teachers and everyone else in the school we can have another statistic to start keeping track of...

 

"Number of kids hurt or killed by accidental discharge or because of negligent armed faculty members, per year."

Dec 19, 2012 10:42PM
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Creating more gun control is only going to control people who already abide by the rules...and punish those same people. Criminals don't abide by the rules.  We need better criminal control as well as help for people with mental health issues.
Dec 19, 2012 10:42PM
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As a father of three, my heart goes out to the families of this terrible tragedy.

 

However, I wonder how many anti-gunners out there would proudly display a sign on their front lawn reading:

 

Gun-Free Home

Dec 19, 2012 10:41PM
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And just because one little A$$-hole commits a terrible crime I can’t enjoy my guns. It is really sad what happened last week and was just wrong. But I’m not a sicko leave me and my guns alone.  

Dec 19, 2012 10:41PM
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Here is a good article from a man whom says he doesn't even own a gun.  Just looking at statistics.  A great read proving that having armed law abiding citizens is a smart choice.

 

It's not letting me post the link.  Search examiner.com  school shooting statistics.

 

Dec 19, 2012 10:40PM
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Dear Washington DC, How's that gun control in you neck of the woods working out for ya? Hmmm, thought so.
Dec 19, 2012 10:39PM
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Another anti-gun article from another anti-gun nut!
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